Mathematics and Making: Sierra College Summer Math Jam

Mathematics Prof Katie Lucero coaches Summer Math Jab students on an interactive activity
Students design and fabricate custom buttons
A laser cut secret book with a living hinge gets a custom design with alcohol-based inks
Filament pens show how images starting in 2D can quickly move to 3D prototypes

In May 2018, nearly 750 students from 15 area high schools—some who thought they’d never go to college—visited Sierra College for a celebration to kick off Sierra Promise. For over half (56%) of the students, they would be the first in their family to attend college. By developing an education plan, agreeing to complete 15 units per semester and considering financial aid options, Promise Scholars received priority registration and, based on performance, their first year free under the California College Promise Grant (need-based) or the AB19 State Promise Grant (non-need-based).

Before the fall semester started, Promise Scholars had an opportunity to participate in fun and engaging activities aimed at building relationships with the Sierra College community, as well as connecting students with campus resources. In August 2018, Mathematics Professors and Sierra Makerspace team members Kate Lucero and Lynn Harrison Benavaidez team designed and taught a week-long Summer Math Jam so that students could brush up on their Math skills.  This time was different however – it was the first time that Making had been integrated into a Math Jam event!

Sierra Makerspaces Creative Consultant, Heather Lincoln, brought the laser cutter and other supplies to the Math building to guide students in hands-on activities as a ‘reward’ for completing math activities in the classroom.  Fifty-eight students rotated into the lab space in groups of four to develop designs for etched dog tags, experiment with 3D pens, and assemble metal buttons.

The next week, students learned math in the context of an Escape Room game.   Math activities led to “keys” to open locked boxes, each containing pieces of a wooden book frame.  Students customized the face of their book and assembled the pieces after finding all the keys.

“Most of the students had never really made anything,” said Heather.  “They loved Making as a creative outlet: it made learning Mathematics really fun!”

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